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A&E Home Video presents
Mummies And The Wonders Of Ancient Egypt (1996)

"The grand images of ancient Egypt are recognizable throughout the world. These fascinating treasures are the tangible links to the secrets from long ago, and through them, the ancient Egyptian is revealed."
- Narrator (Frank Langella)

Review By: Jeff Ulmer   
Published: August 29, 2001

Stars: Frank Langella
Director: Lisa Bourgoujian

Manufacturer: DVSS
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 03h:10m:32s
Release Date: August 28, 2001
UPC: 733961702057
Genre: documentary

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B- AB+B+ D-

DVD Review

"Way down in Egypt in the Valley of Kings, where the mummified pharaohs pretend dead in their sleep." - Mercyful Fate - Curse of the Pharaohs

The mysteries of Ancient Egypt have long intrigued scholars and those with casual interest. The world of pharaohs, and their legacy of the Great Pyramids, the Sphinx and the world of hieroglyphics are an ongoing source of speculation and study. Egyptologists continue to try to unravel the mysteries of this ancient civilization, and onlookers can only stand in awe of these marvels of human engineering that make up the sole surviving wonders of the ancient world. To this day, there is little factual basis for describing how the pyramids were actually built, despite many theories about their construction. The purpose of the guardian of the Giza plateau, the Great Sphinx is also unknown, outside theory. This series of programs looks at the belief systems of the ancient Egyptians, and tries to determine the purpose of these massive structural undertakings, while also attempting to expose the rituals and preparations for life in the afterworld that were such an inherent part of Egyptian civilization.

Each program focuses on different aspects of this culture and its history. Location footage, interviews with different scholars, and recreations of some of the ceremonies are included.

In The Pyramids, we see how these great structures are thought to have been conceived, and some of the theories surrounding their construction. The process of mummification is also studied, both its purpose and the practice, including a recreation of the embalming ritual itself. We are taken inside the pyramids, and given a tour of the many chambers therein.

The next program, The Sphinx unravels the history of this half-man, half-lion who guards the Giza plateau. With the aid of computer modeling, we see how this enigmatic guardian may have appeared in ancient times, and learn of the many restoration efforts that have been undertaken over the ages. We hear from scholars the possible purpose for this construction that stares across the desert, and what part it played in the renewed interest in the plateau.

Part three focuses on the written language of the ancient Egyptians, The Hieroglyphs, a language thought lost for eternity until the discovery of the Rosetta stone, which has allowed linguists to decipher the hidden meanings of many of these writings. We also learn how the hieroglyph relates to the burial ceremonies, and their part in guiding the spirit into the underworld of the afterlife.

Part four concentrates on perhaps the most notable discovery for Egyptlogists when, in 1922, Howard Carter uncovered the intact tomb of King Tutankhamen in the Valley of the Kings, long been assumed to have given up all its secrets. This section includes plenty of period footage showing the tomb as it was discovered, and relates the events leading up to the discovery, plus the tragedy that followed, giving weight to the legendary curse of the pharaohs. We tour the tomb, and see the variety of riches uncovered, and also get a look at the face of the king, removed from his burial mask of gold. We then are taken to the site of KV5, the most important discovery in the Valley of the Kings since Tutankhamen, which continues to astound those who have unearthed what is now the largest tomb ever discovered.

Each program contains a wealth of information, and offers an interesting look at these people from our past. The inclusion of period movie footage and modern photography from these places gives a thorough overview of this civilization, and the reasons for the construction of these wondrous monuments. The narrative is interjected with quotes from various scholars and historians throughout the ages. My only criticism is with some of the sound design decisions, particularly the overly dramatic voicings of some of the ancient texts. Otherwise, we have a fine collection of materials detailing the life of one of the Earth's most fascinating cultures.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: A


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Overall image quality is very good, with the deficiencies one expects from video. Colors are vibrant and black levels solid. There are numerous dropouts throughout, a fair degree of rainbowing and interlace shimmer. Archival footage looks surprisingly good, and the newer video is generally well-saturated with good shadow detail. There is also some ghosting in high contrast areas; however, for TV material it is highly acceptable.

Image Transfer Grade: B+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: Audio is presented in mono, and is of good quality. The sonic spectrum is deficient in deep bass, but otherwise is well represented. Dialogue is easily discernable, except for a few of the heavily effects laden passages.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 24 cues and remote access
Packaging: Amaray
2 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: Aside from chapter stops, there are no extras to be found on either of the two discs.

Extras Grade: D-


Final Comments

An information-filled collection of features covering ancient Egyptian culture and the monuments they left behind. I wasn't totally enthralled by some of the production choices, but the amount and breadth of information and presentation outweighs any aesthetic problems with the material. The tours of the Tutankhamen tomb and KV5 are worth the price of admission alone.


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